One could argue it’s been a victorious year for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The FUTURE Act – legislation sustaining federal funding for minority serving institutions – made a fraught, winding journey to President Donald J. Trump’s desk, where it was signed into law in December.

But on Tuesday, Dr. Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), discouraged unbridled optimism.

“I cannot stand before you here today and say only that the state of HBCUs is strong or only that HBCUs remain resilient,” he said at the organization’s second annual “State of the HBCU Address” where HBCU leaders and allies gathered in Washington D.C. “As you know, those truths are only part of the story.”

He argued that the permanent annual $255 million in federal funding for minority serving institutions, with $85 million designated for HBCUs, marks progress, but it isn’t enough to solve the “HBCU paradox” – the fact that HBCUs enjoy broad bipartisan support but continue to be “woefully underfunded.”

The support that exists, though it spans party divides, is “too often a mile wide and an inch deep,” Lomax said. “Too often it creates an all too convenient gap between rhetoric and reality. It makes it easy for people to look and sound like they are HBCU boosters without having to take the hard steps and make a deep-seated commitment to eradicate decades of disparate treatment of HBCUs.”

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